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Old Friends

Fountain at Lake Phalen . “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

I had a busy week this week doing a lot of socializing and catching up.  Once upon a time, a long time ago I was involved in High School theater.   We had a foreign exchange student from Amsterdam who joined us backstage.

The theater bunch in high school was pretty tight.  We all spent whatever spare time we had hiding out in the theater shop.  We were also, many of us, involved with band and/or choir – which meant pep rallies and marching band.  There were days when I would get to school before 6am and not leave again until after midnight.

some of us back in the day….

and now!

Many of us have stayed in the area and stayed in touch.  This week we had the honor of being visited by our dear Dutch friend!  The opportunity for a reunion was enough to get a few of our out of state friends to fly in as well.

I didn’t participate in all of the activities, but we did have a lovely get together and reminiscence on Monday evening.  Many of us also got dolled up to go swing dancing at the Wabasha Caves on Thursday.

Ready to go dancing!

In addition to all of the walking down memory lane I managed to acquire the grandpuppy for the weekend.  She needed some walking as well!

Today’s walk is brought to you by the neighbors dahlias.

Another friend (this one more recent) remembered she’d bought tickets to a water lantern festival.  She was going to be out of town and offered the tickets up.   Different group this time, but still connecting with friends and being out and about.

Making a lantern at Lake Phalen

I’m really grateful for the opportunities this week.  Besides the public transitions of John McCain and Neil Simon there are also several others happening both in my family circle and for other close friends and their families.  It’s nice to have a distraction, and to be able to share memories.

One of the hardest things with loss is that the person who dies takes your shared memories with them.  That’s true with divorce, with breaking up a friendship, and especially true when a good friend or close relative dies.  Getting together with my high school bunch helped me to remember, and also made me appreciate how we share those memories.

and sending them off under a beautiful moon

The water lantern festival (in it’s non-culturally appropriated form) is also an opportunity for remembrances.  Both of the friends I attended with took the opportunity to acknowledge the people they have lost on their lanterns.  I am grateful as well for the opportunity to make new memories and cultivate new friends.

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Memorial Day

National Cemetery at Fort Snelling MN

So many wars, so many lives.  Some were fought over an ideology, and won, and yet we still contest that ideology.  Some were fought over resources, because a desperate enough people will do anything to try and survive.  Most were fought because someone was afraid of losing something, and many who fought lost everything.

I have mixed feelings about this day.  I appreciate the sacrifice of those who have fought for my freedoms.  But I grew up during Vietnam.  I understand war to be instigated by the wealthy and powerful in order to protect their wealth and power and fought by the poor and less fortunate.   Give us your life, we’ll give you an education doesn’t sit well with me.

I know we did not do well by those who fought in Vietnam.  We, as a country, had yet to learn how to hate a war and still honor those who served.

Is it an honor to serve in a war that was lost?  I don’t believe might makes right.  Just because you win doesn’t mean you are more just, or moral, or worthy.  But, for example,  I struggle to honor those who lost their lives fighting on the losing side in our civil war.  Their families, though, certainly believe them to be honorable and do not want them forgotten.

Is any war really won?  WWII, a war that had a clear moral victory, the war fought by “the greatest generation” we won.  Today we can have Nazi’s marching in the streets and our president insisting they are good people.  Is that what those lives were sacrificed to achieve?

As a Wiccan I do work with ancestors.  When they talk about fighting the good fight they are not encouraging fisticuffs.  They generally have a broader view in death than they did in life and would like to broaden my view as well.  They encourage me to understand better and more fully.  They want me to speak and educate and ask for what I desire.  Sometimes that’s scary for me.  It’s rarely easy.

That fear, of finding out that we are wrong, of learning that there is more to a situation than we thought, of admitting we don’t know everything, that is, ultimately, why we have wars.  If it wasn’t so scary to find a better solution, we probably would.  If a better solution than giving up your life was available, wouldn’t you take it?

So honor the ancestors this Memorial Day.  Honor those who have given up their lives in service to this country.  Honor them by demanding we find a better way, a real win.

Greening

dandelions in the park

dandelions in the park

April showers didn’t bring us much of anything except grey day after grey day.  May showers on the other hand have finally brought spring to the north!  Even on a rainy day, there is enough green to combat the grey.  The world around me is blossoming and I’m making an effort to spend time outside to enjoy it.

Johnny Jump-ups voluntarily spot my lawn

Johnny Jump-ups voluntarily spot my lawn

I like the cooler (but not cold) days and the frequent rains have kept the pollen count to a tolerable level.  I’m trying to reclaim some of my gardens.  It’s still a challenge.  My up and down can get a little unsteady.  My back is limiting both my carrying capacity and how much time I can spend at any one task.  My shoulder makes reaching and pulling a challenge.  Even so I’m making progress and enjoying every minute of it.

Pansy goes in each year for my Mother's Mother an avid gardener with simple tastes.

Pansy goes in each year for my Mother’s Mother an avid gardener with simple tastes.

As I get to dig again in my ancestor garden I call up bittersweet memories of love and loss.  There are people  I honor here who I would love to be able to share this season with, and I suppose in a way I do.  I have mixed feelings as well as I dig through the strawberry bed.  This was my ex-husband’s project.  There’s very little about it that went with my suggestions and so it’s not designed to be easy for me to maintain.  It’s a garden in the front yard and I knew if I didn’t at least make some effort the neighbors would start fussing.  It’s amazing to me how well the strawberries have managed in spite of total neglect for several years.  There’s a resilience in this garden that asks me to be resilient as well.

strawberry blossom

strawberry blossom

With all the fresh new growth and warmth I feel for my friends who are being challenged with the deaths of their loved ones.  This time of year is so contrary to anyone trying to grieve.  I know the feeling where you want the world to stop right along with you, and it doesn’t.  But I also know that there is a gentle consolation inherent in the obvious manifestation of the cycle of life.

Love and blessing to all my friends who are challenged with loss in this season.

Gandalf

10168118_698968240145380_479671495923664439_nThere isn’t a gentle way to say that our cat Gandalf passed away last week.  We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier.  The house is empty, and more poignantly so is my lap.  He was at least 15 years old (I can’t keep track) and stayed with us through two other cats, a dog, a marriage and a divorce. . . We got the cat from a friend who has a farm.  He was a “special needs” kitten.  He was the only one of the litter who survived.  Mom cat was a little too genetically close to the father.  He was polydactylic, but none of his feet matched in numbers of toes. .

Gandalf and Sinbad (the cat that left with the ex)

Gandalf and Sinbad (the cat that left with the ex)

His rear legs were sensitive, his kneecaps floated leaving the nerves exposed.  His hips were displaced and he walked with an odd gate.  We called him a Cabbit because he would hop like a rabbit to get around. . . He was going to be Orion’s cat and so on the way to get him I asked Orion if he’d thought about names.  Orion announced the cat’s name would be Gandalf.  I thought maybe he’d want to see the cat first, get to know him a little.  No.  As always Orion was sure, and right.

lap cat

lap cat

. Although he was careful about letting people pick him up, Gandalf was a social cat.  He was always interested in visitors and willing to make friends.  Because of his disability he wasn’t likely to jump into a lap without an invitation, but he was happy to cuddle up and get some attention.

Helping with the computer game.

Helping with the computer game.

. . . When we got him, given all his congenial defects, we didn’t expect him to live so long.I’m so glad he did.  We’re going to miss him.10153727_698969416811929_6092997639059324219_n

Persistence

I have often, over the years, complained to my friends that I don’t have any discipline.  I’m usually greeted with much resistance to that idea.  “Oh no!  You have plenty of discipline.” they say, “You write in your morning pages, you feed the kids, you have kept up a weekly blog now for over 9 months.”   There is no point in arguing but I laugh to myself.

I really don’t have much discipline.  Discipline implies an orderliness and consistency.  One of the definitions in my Apple laptop New American Dictionary is: to do something in a controlled and habitual way.  I may write my morning pages, feed the kids and keep up a weekly blog but there is nothing controlled or habitual about it.

What I really am is persistent.  Again with the dictionary: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.  (I think the little detail that I’m also usually the one providing the opposition is a topic for another blog.)    So either with discipline or with persistence I seem to get things done, but somehow I believe it would be easier for me if I could ease up on the persistence and acquire some more discipline.

Now I suppose I have to provide examples to explain my thesis.  This weekend (I think) I have managed to take my blood pressure medications every day.   I dole them out along with Orion’s meds first thing in the morning.  Of course on a holiday weekend this may be closer to noon, but it’s still first thing.  (This counts as discipline except when he’s not here and I forget to do it at all.)

Somehow I can not manage to actually TAKE the medicine when I dole it out.  (Again, that would be discipline.)   Instead I put it someplace (like on the kitchen counter) where I can’t help but see it, often, throughout the day.  Each time I see it I think, “I should probably take those.”  Holiday weekend aside, I’ve taken my meds closer to 8pm than the usual 8am all weekend.  Nagging at myself until I actually do it, that’s persistence.

Thank you

Likewise today’s blog.  Monday was Memorial Day and so I went out on Sunday morning and took pictures for a blog memorial.   I figured I would write it, sit on it, edit it and even if I chose to take the holiday off it would be ready to go Tuesday morning.  I would have done all that too, if I was disciplined.

Instead I decided that the memorial blog was a bummer.  If I was going to continue to court joy I needed something a little more upbeat.  So I changed my focus from a memorial to fond memories.  Sounds almost as nitpicky as discipline vs perseverance doesn’t it?  The change in wording did change the tone of my thinking and I proceeded to think about fond memories.  Then I started to think about photographs.

I have photographs (in theory) for the fond memories blog.  They are probably in my flooded and moldy basement.  They are not in electronic media.  They are not in any particular organization (unless I pull them out of the scrapbooks my mother made for the kids when they were little- her discipline not mine.) This task, besides being daunting, came along with my current frustration with the technology of a new phone.  (Karina and I upgraded to smart phones last week and I’m totally lost.)

The nice thing about persistence vs discipline is that persistence is about the outcome and discipline is about how you get there.  I’ve actually lost friends (and maybe a husband) over this small distinction.   I am very good at fulfilling my promises.  If I give you my word I will do what I said.  I may, however, not meet your expectations of what I meant.

The friend that I lost asked me to come over and help her with prep for a catering event she was running.  She knew it would be an all day affair and I agreed to come in the morning and stay until we were done.  She estimated 8 hours.  I was having what turned out to be a torturous and complicated pregnancy.  The complications started with me throwing up that morning.

I showed up when she asked willing to work.  I was really out of it, really sick (but pregnant sick so doing food work didn’t seem problematic). and still persevered through-out the day.  I did step out to take a nap at one point and the 8 hour day became closer to 14 hours.  I was literally dying (although we didn’t know that at the time.)  My friend was really angry about writing me a check for the hours I’d worked.  This in spite of my saying “I really don’t know how long I worked or how much time I put in.  I know what time I arrived, what time I left and that I took a nap in the middle.  I have no idea how much time I lost napping or running to the bathroom.”  She expected discipline, I persevered.

So here we have a wordy blog going out quite late in the day on Tuesday, not Monday.  The topic isn’t memorial.  The photos are essentially nonexistent.  None-the-less I continue to produce a weekly blog.  Don’t mistake this for discipline.  It’s simply persistence.

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